LOS ANGELES A walkout by dock workers at the California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach that entered its fourth day Friday is having an uneven impact on steel trade, with most imports arriving unimpeded but some disruption occurring in exports of containerized scrap.
Dockworkers at seven of eight container terminals in Los Angeles and a reported three of six terminals in Long Beach were honoring picket lines by clerical members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, shutting down those facilities. The workers, who have been without a contract since June 2010, allege that shippers are outsourcing their jobs overseas, a claim shippers deny.
The bulk freight terminal operated by Wilmington, Calif.-based Pasha Stevedoring & Terminals remained in operation Friday, a Port of Los Angeles spokesman said. Market sources said most steel imports through Los Angeles move through that facility.
A spokesman for the Port of Long Beach confirmed that the ports bulk steel terminal also was operating.
One trader said the effect on his companys import business had been "zero" because Pasha was continuing to operate. "Theres been no impact on deliveries" from overseas, he said.
"Weve been receiving stuff off the dock all week," said another import buyer, noting that if the strike was causing a problem "somebody here would have brought it up by now."
However, the shutdown of container terminals has forced exporters of containerized scrap to put the scrap arriving at their export yards into inventory or seek other outlets, according to market sources. One observer said the disruption had forced overseas scrap customers to seek material from other ports or even other countries.
Sources noted that containers share of overall ferrous scrap exports has grown as demand for bulk scrap from such large customers as China and South Korea has fallen off.
"We are now starting to see ships divert to other ports, including to Mexico," Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said in a statement. She added that "in todays shipping environment, we cant afford to lose cargo or our competitive advantage."
Talks between employers and union negotiators were still under way Friday. "Were hoping for a resolution today," the Port of Los Angeles spokesman said of the negotiations.